Pseudoscientific research behaviours

SCIENTIFIC UNDERSTANDING OF BEHAVIOR CHP. 1

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

· Describe why an understanding of research methods is important.

· Describe the scientific approach to learning about behavior and contrast it with pseudoscientific research.

· Define and give examples of the four goals of scientific research: description, prediction, determination of cause, and explanation of behavior.

· Discuss the three elements for inferring causation: temporal order, covariation of cause and effect, and elimination of alternative explanations.

· Define, describe, compare, and contrast basic and applied research.

Page 2DO SOCIAL MEDIA SITES LIKE FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM IMPACT OUR RELATIONSHIPS? What causes alcoholism? How do our early childhood experiences affect our later lives? How do we remember things, what causes us to forget, and how can memory be improved?

Why do we procrastinate? Why do some people experience anxiety so extreme that it disrupts their lives while others—facing the same situation—seem to be unaffected? How can we help people who suffer from depression? Why do we like certain people and dislike others?

Curiosity about questions like these is probably the most important reason that many students decide to take courses in the behavioral sciences. Science is the best way to explore and answer these sorts of questions.

In this book, we will examine the methods of scientific research in the behavioral sciences. In this introductory chapter, we will focus on ways in which knowledge of research methods can be useful in understanding the world around us.

Further, we will review the characteristics of a scientific approach to the study of behavior and the general types of research questions that concern behavioral scientists.

IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH METHODS

We are continuously bombarded with research results: “Happiness Wards Off Heart Disease,” “Recession Causes Increase in Teen Dating Violence,” “Breast-Fed Children Found Smarter,” “Facebook Users Get Worse Grades in College.”

Articles and books make claims about the beneficial or harmful effects of particular diets or vitamins on one’s sex life, personality, or health. Survey results are frequently reported that draw conclusions about our beliefs concerning a variety of topics.

The key question is, how do you evaluate such reports? Do you simply accept the findings because they are supposed to be scientific? A background in research methods will help you read these reports critically, evaluate the methods employed, and decide whether the conclusions are reasonable.

Many occupations require the use of research findings. For example, mental health professionals must make decisions about treatment methods, assignment of clients to different types of facilities, medications, and testing procedures.

Such decisions are made on the basis of research; to make good decisions, mental health professionals must be able to read the research literature in the field and apply it to their professional lives.

Similarly, people who work in business environments frequently rely on research to make decisions about marketing strategies, ways of improving employee productivity and morale, and methods of selecting and training new employees.

Educators must keep up with research on topics such as the effectiveness of different teaching strategies or programs to deal with special student problems. Knowledge of research methods and the ability to evaluate research reports are useful in many fields.